Travelling within Europe is undoubtedly a rewarding experience, but sometimes do you ever crave that feeling of true awe in looking at how a very different culture from your own lives? The Kingdom of Morocco is a fascinating country offering a rich cultural experience from its unique traditions to its welcoming people. Below are some aspects of this northwestern part of Africa which I found great appreciation for.
The Moroccan Riads
A riad is a type of Moroccan traditional hotel, a form of house-style accommodation. The riad we stayed in was called Abracadabra and ended up bringing more magic than we expected. It is actually incredible how homely this hotel feels. In comparison to some of the more extravagant, vast hotels, it is very compact making the ambiance more intimate and familiar. There aren’t even locks on the bedroom doors which would normally be something alarming yet here I felt utterly safe. The interior design is based around autochthonous materials with its Berber carpets adding to the authentic feel. When you wake up in the morning, you climb up the spiral staircase in your white dressing gown onto the rooftop terrace, to enjoy thee best meal of the day! Sometimes it is just you up there for breakfast as it is a relatively small hotel. They spoil you as they keep the coffee pouring and the pancakes flipping, while you read the latest edition to National Geographic under the Moroccan sun. The happiness is real!
This particular hotel was located only a five-minute walk from the medina so you were right in the heart of the hustle and bustle. One of the large mosques was situated nearby, so we could hear the Adhan which is the Islamic call to prayer occurring at prescribed times of the day. It creates quite an other-worldly feeling when it echoes through the walls waking the tourist up in the middle of the night, adding to the charm of their culture. You can also enjoy therapeutic massages and cookery classes within the hotel to add some more relaxation to your day. I went back to Marrakech a few months later primarily to enjoy life in this riad.. I mean, I could write a whole book on how much I love this hotel but I will swiftly move on ..!
If ever you begin to feel overwhelmed by the high concentration of people within the city of Marrakech, there are means of escaping to someplace more tranquil. The diverse Moroccan landscape offers an escape to anyone wishing to have their heart captured.. from nights spent in the sand dunes of Merzouga to a trekking tour of the Atlas Mountains. We took a guided tour from our hotel in Marrakech to the High Atlas Mountains overlooking the Ourika Valley. While visiting the Berber villages, we stopped off at an argan oil cooperative where we got to see the process involved in its production. Let me just say, this oil works wonders for skin and hair, I would recommend it very much, the pure argan oil. I didn’t buy enough of it so I guess I will have to fly back to hotel Abracadabra!
As we were taking off in our little minivan, we heard the call of one of the workers we had previously met. We then stopped and he presented me with a bracelet of the hand of Fatima. He told me that it is a symbol for protection and will fight off all evil… so make sure and purchase one if you haven’t already! The point is the thoughtfulness and the humaneness of the Moroccan people which I noticed on numerous occasions. Even though some of them don’t have very much, they are so generous with what they do have.
Medina of Marrakech
To get a feel for the traditional way of life, a day spent in the Medina is a must. At its centre you will find the Djemaa El Fna, the main square which boasts a hectic energy filled with snake charmers, henna painters and monkeys. From here you can wander through the labyrinth-like streets and find yourself in the souk where your senses will truly be awakened. The souk is the marketplace selling everything from exotic spices to multicoloured carpets and is the perfect place to engage your haggling skills. Be sure to have high-energy levels while you’re here as things can get spicy. When you become ravenous, there are plenty of restaurants serving the popular tagine which is a tasty local dish of meat and vegetables. The restaurant Comptoir Darna puts on a belly-dancing show as you enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine, a perfect place to get your Shakira on!
The Moroccan sense of humour
Finally, the Moroccan people possess probably the best sense of humour I have come across during my travels. During our stay in a hotel in Agadir, the manager of the hotel, Rachid, used to come out and speak with us every morning at breakfast. One morning, he overheard us saying that he looks very much like a relative of ours called David. The following morning, he came out with David written in capital letters with a marker over his original name badge and began introducing himself to the other guests as David! They are very quick-witted and have a great rapport with humour.
Another time in Marrakech, we were walking down this alleyway around midnight and there was this deep, husky voice that said ‘I give you three thousand camels for your daughter’... we could see nobody.. and my mum said nothing, continued walking but raised her hand signifying 5 and then he replies ‘okay.! okay.!.. I give you five thousand..!’ (I know it sounds like quite the dodgy situation but it was honestly very humorous at the time!) We called my Dad about the proposition but he wasn’t too impressed with the idea of inheriting 5,000 camels into the west of Ireland. All-in-all, they do have a charm about them and will certainly make you laugh in unexpected ways.
Last point, itineraries are great and useful for checking off all of the boxes on your bucket list but one must not forget the beauty of wandering... for it is during this time that we often come into contact with people, places, experiences that impact our lives positively in ways we never would expect.
Book your flights to Morocco and come join me for a cup of coffee some morning, you know which hotel to find me in!! Ciao for now
Topics: travel blog, Marrakech, Atlas Mountains, Tagine, Traditional, Moroccan Cuisine, Riad, moroccan hotels, moroccan souk, Marrakech Medina
Written by Phoebe O'Gara